UPDATE 9.26.18: Starting 9.21.18, a new federal law allows people to freeze and unfreeze their credit at the three major credit bureaus without being charged. Before, it cost consumers in almost half the states $3 to $12 per bureau to freeze or unfreeze their credit reports. For more information read the article found at https://www.usatoday.com/story/money/2018/09/21/equifax-free-credit-freeze-new-law/1377815002/
There’s been a lot of news about the Equifax breach recently. We put together a guide to help our members understand what happened, and how to protect your information.
Our CEO Robert Blumberg has written a letter on the steps we are taking to ensure our members are protected. You can find the letter at https://waunafcu.org/blog/robert_blumberg_letter/.
Who is Equifax?
Equifax is a consumer reporting agency and one of the three largest credit bureaus in the nation. These bureaus retain the aggregate credit information of some 800 million American and Canadian citizens, including more than 88 million businesses internationally.
Why would they have my sensitive information?
Credit card companies, banks, credit unions, retailers, auto lenders, and mortgage lenders all report details of your credit activity to credit reporting agencies. Whenever you open an account extending credit, that company or entity reports to these bureaus.
In May of 2017, hackers trolling the internet discovered an Equifax server using outdated Apache software vulnerable to attack.
What was stolen and how many were compromised?
Social Security numbers, birth-dates, addresses, names, driver’s license numbers, credit card numbers, and other documents. This breach is affecting more than 143 million US-based users.
Have I been breached?
Many of our members are wondering if they are affected, and if so what to do. The FTC has provided some guidance, but we have included some main steps below. If you do find that you were included, don’t worry, but protect yourself and take advantage of the Equifax services for those whose information was made available.
What do I do?
Guarding your personal information is a huge priority for Wauna Credit Union. By using advanced fraud-monitoring technology, our committed staff is watching your accounts. Although in the wake of the Equifax breach, thieves may be more prevalent in their attempts to steal your information. They might try one or many of the following:
- Fraudsters are sourcing phone numbers to contact the Credit Union (caller IDs are displaying member’s actual phone number).
- Impostors are saying they are members. They are providing accurate information when we ask questions to ID them.
- Placing fake travel notifications. Fraudsters are then using cards outside of our members’ normal usage areas.
We understand how overwhelming identity theft can be. But there are ways to protect yourself, including steps you can take right now.
1. First of all, finding out if your data has been exposed is where you need to start. You can do this by entering your last name and the last six digits of your Social Security number at Equifax’s website*.
*As of 09/29/2017 this service has been listed as “temporarily unavailable”. Continue to check regularly as Equifax catches up to mass inquiries.
2. Whether or not you’ve been compromised, U.S. Equifax consumers are eligible for year of free credit monitoring and other services**. The site has provided a date when you can come back to enroll.
**Equifax has confirmed people who enroll in the credit monitoring program as a result of the breach would not waive their right to class action.
3. Using strong passwords is helpful. Also important is being aware of the information you provide when transferring secure information.
4. Reviewing your free credit reports is essential. Get started here.
5. Monitoring your accounts for unusual activity is key! Accounts on your credit reports that you didn’t open, or credit inquiries from entities you’ve never contacted are red flags. If you find evidence of fraud, let us and/or the appropriate financial institution know right away.
6. Open a “My Social Security account”, preventing bad guys from creating accounts in your name.
7. In addition, consider placing a credit freeze. Placing a credit freeze makes it more difficult for a thief to open an account in your name. A credit freeze will not stop a thief from changing your accounts.
8. Setting a fraud alert. This requires creditors to verify your identity before issuing a credit card, opening a new account, or increasing a credit limit on an existing account. A fraud alert will not stop a lender from opening credit in your name. Yet it does require lenders to take additional steps in verifying your identity. Better to be safe than sorry.
9. In the event that your identity has been compromised, file an identity theft report with the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) at identitytheft.gov or by phone at 1-877-438-4338.
10. Because of increasing attacks, some people are theorizing that we will see an increase in tax return fraud. If possible, file taxes early this year.
Also, be vigilant in watching accounts you have outside of the Credit Union and don’t click on suspicious links or open attachments. Additionally, do not respond to emails, text messages, or phone calls that are soliciting your information — no matter who the caller is claiming to be.
In the meantime, Wauna Credit Union is working around the clock to safeguard your finances. We are here to answer questions and address concerns.
For a list of FAQs regarding the breach, please visit https://goo.gl/tGWzP2, and as always, we are here if you have questions or concerns you wish to discuss.